CARE National Conference - Day 2
CARE National Conference - Day 2
If Monday was a day to learn about a range of topics from a variety of speakers, Tuesday was a time to roll up the sleeves and get to work on the business of advocacy. Training Day! It started with a morning kick-off, which set the tone for the three afternoon legislative briefings (1. Food and Nutrition Security 2. Do Foreign Aid Cuts Threaten U.S. National Security? 3. Sexual and Reproductive Health).
“We’ll have the largest group of advocates on the Hill that we’ve had in years,” said David Ray, vice president for Advocacy at CARE and managing director for CARE Action! “And it’s incredible to see the energy and enthusiasm this group has. Now more than ever, we will need that energy to tell Congress, “Don’t cut food assistance. Don’t cut education programs. Don’t cut economic development and #DontCutLives!”
Stephen Cote, staff director, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Rules, joined CARE Action! executive director Rachael Leman on stage to share insight into how CARE citizen advocates can be most effective in their efforts this week and beyond.
He offered three arguments regarding U.S. foreign assistance that he feels will resonate with members from both sides of the aisle:
- It’s a moral issue and we have an obligation to do this.
- It’s a national security issue. He pointed to the Bush administration’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) as evidence of how effective this argument can be. “[President Bush] faced a lot of opposition, not because of disbelief that it was important work, but because of budgetary restraints. He really made them understand for the first time the security aspect of our foreign aid and that really paved the way for some of the progress the Bush Administration was able to make.”
- It’s important to constituents in the members’ districts — “that there is a foundation in their district for supporting these programs and that it’s not just people abroad who care about these issues.”
Other advice? Don’t make it just about your visit this week on the Hill and strike the right tone. Continuously follow up and make your voice heard once you’re back home. Go to the district office or call the D.C. office, Cote said. Remind them who you are and why you care. The tone you take is important. “Whether Republican or Democrat, don’t prejudge where a member is going to be on the issue. Assume that you can win over any member or staff that you’re meeting with. Approach it with optimism.” Lastly, thank your members when they do the right thing. Call your members. Write your local paper and highlight it back home, he added.
Visit CAREaction.org for tools and resources that can help you in these follow-up efforts.
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), former community organizer and longtime champion for marginalized communities, took the stage, as well, quickly identifying with his audience. “As a life-long advocate and public servant, I know very well that a group of citizen advocates with unshakeable commitment has the power to change the world.” Then he presented the 2017 I CAN Award to two Philadelphians who are helping to do exactly that: Lisa Beckman and Daniel Berger.
In their own words
Lisa and Daniel spent a few minutes with us earlier today sharing insight into why they do what they do and what meaning they find in doing it.
Do the president’s proposed cuts to U.S. foreign assistance compel you to do more?
LB: I’m concerned about the potential cuts to the foreign aid budget. I mean, the reality is that the money we give to aid is less than 1 percent and for less than 1 percent you’re chopping, potentially, the one thing that is literally saving lives; it’s access to safety, to maternal health care, to education, to food, and so for such a little amount of money we are preserving human lives and human value. That is a universal issue. This is not a border issue. It’s a question of the value we place on human lives.
DB: Given the current political climate where foreign aid is potentially on the chopping block, it’s an absolute call to action. This is something that’s critically important for CARE’s work and for the U.S. as a leader in humanitarian aid. Being able to tap the energy we see out there and orient that toward making our voices heard and mobilizing them around this cause is something that has really been heightened as a result of the current environment.
What does it mean to you to personally deliver to your representative the message: #DontCutLives?
LB: I’m very proud to be here in person on behalf of CARE and the citizens of Pennsylvania. One thing CARE has done for me personally is they’ve taken someone whose background is not in politics, it’s not in lobbying or even directly in advocacy … and they’ve shown me that I can use my voice and the tools they give me. Instead of going home and complaining every time I hear something on the news or something that makes me mad, then calling my friends and calling my family and telling my coworkers, I can turn my complaints into something constructive, into something powerful, into something meaningful. My friends don’t need to hear about me, but my Congressmen do.
DB: Being able to take the message #Don’tCutLives and relay that in person to my representatives is a very meaningful activity. There’s soft interaction, social [media] engagement that you can do, but being able to passionately speak about what this means to me … to the people who represent me is a deep exercise in civic engagement.
Are there certain issues that resonate more with you than others?
LB: One of the issues most important to me personally is CARE’s work in maternal health. My mother had me later in life, in her 40s, and she went through a wide variety of complications. And for her to have access to the hospitals and the many appointments and being able to easily make an appointment and see someone regularly, those are things that we take for granted here. My own life is something that comes from the privilege of having access to health care. CARE is doing so much to advocate for maternal health issues. Each year, 300,000 women die because they lack the most basic healthcare access during their pregnancy and they don’t have to.
DB: For me, there’s not a single issue that resonates more than another. I like that there’s a breadth of issues and programming that CARE undertakes, and I know that CARE contours that programming to local needs.
What will you take back home from the conference?
LB: I hope to bring back what I’ve learned from the conference to my own circles. It’s been interesting since I’ve been involved with CARE the last several years how many conversations will come up about Syrian refugees or the foreign assistance budget or a wide variety of issues, and because of CARE educating me on these issues I’m able to pipe up and say, “Actually, here’s the real information.” I’m now so much better informed to speak accurately about what is happening and to share those stories.
DB: What I hope to take back to advocates in the Philadelphia community are updates on the issues, knowledge on a more intimate level about what’s going on, what our priorities are from an international aid and humanitarian efforts perspective, having some fresh experiences to draw from, to motivate people, to energize people as a collective call to action.
Before you go, just remember:
- You win just by being there. Before the first word is spoken, your presence in your representative’s office is one clear measure of what the issues mean to you.
- If your political representative enters a meeting late, start over. That is the person you most want to engage, so start from the beginning.
- Talk with every Congressional staff member as if you’re talking with the member him or herself.
- You don’t have to be an expert on the issues. Use your talking points. Find a couple of points that resonate most with you, then talk passionately about them.
- Tweet your conference experience using #CNC17.
Thank you all so much for being here. Thank you for your leadership, your passion and your example. Let’s roll up our sleeves and have a great day on the Hill tomorrow! #DontCutLives!
We stand corrected!
Regrettably, in Monday’s email recap we incorrectly stated that Katie Meyler was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. She was not, but rather volunteered for a nonprofit organization, whose experience was similar to the Peace Corps. Apologies, Katie and everyone, for the mistake!